In order to celebrate Cinco de Mayo properly you would need a good portion of chili con carne, of course! This recipe combines Mexican flavors with a Spanish twist. One of the weird ingredients is coffee! But trust us, it works!
Ingredients for Chili con Carne for 8-10 Servings
A splash of olive oil – aceite de oliva
1 kg (2 lbs.) of ground beef – carne de vacuno, picado
3 raw chorizo sausages – chorizos
2 onions – cebollas
5 cloves of garlic- dientes de ajo
2 cinnamon stick – camitas de canela
1/2 l (2 1/2 cups) of freshly brewed coffee – café
400 g (1 lbs) of tomato paste – tomate doble concentrado
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds – semillas de cilantro
1 tablespoon of oregano – orégano
3 table spoons of brown sugar – azúcar moreno
sea salt – sal marina
ground black pepper – pimienta negra
10 fresh green chillies – pimientos picante verde
400 g (1 lbs.) of chickpeas or kidney beans – garbanzos
Preheat the oven to 150 ºC.
Finely chop the onion and garlic and soften in olive oil. Fry the ground beef and chorizo in batches. When all is browned, onions and ground beef into Dutch oven. Add coffee, tomato paste and cinnamon sticks and put into oven for 2 hours. If you have some leftover tomatoes you can throw them in as well. We did.
While the stew is cooking in the oven, make to chili paste by combining toasted coriander seeds, 1 or 2 chilies (depending how spicy you want the chili stew to be), oregano and brown sugar in a mortar. When the structure seems paste-like, set it aside to wait for the stew.
After 2 hours of cooking add the chili paste, chickpeas, a pinch of salt and black pepper and stir carefully. Check the taste and season with brown sugar, chili, salt and pepper, if needed. When the taste is right, garnish the dish with rest of the chilies (see the picture below) and put the pot back into oven for 20 minutes without lid.
Serve with nacho chips, salsa and grated mozzarella.
Slow cooked meat stews have always been our favorites. They can be used with pasta, rice, potatoes or simply with freshly baked bread. For us the first encounter with these a Southern European dishes came in Greek years ago. There were two parts in a small beachside village: one for tourists with not-so-fancy-but-expensive-restaurants and one for locals. Of course we headed to a local restaurant with plastic table cloths and cheap chairs. What they served there was slow cooked beef stifado, Greek beef stew with fist size beef cubes, shallots and tomato in the sauce. The stew must have been cooking for the whole day because the meat was so tender. And they served it with fresh and crunchy country style bread!
Spanish oxtail stew was the next one that we tasted. And we have made it several times at home with the traditional Spanish oxtail stew recipe. Then a Finnish blogger Sivumaku published Italian ragú recipe which to became one of our favorites, too. In all these three recipes the basic structure is the same: cheap cuts of beef and/or pork, red wine and a lot of time in mild temperature. What if we combined the best parts from all of these?
We ordered an oxtail from a local butcher shop along with some Ibérian pig cheeks. We have done pig cheeks in white wine before, but since they need a lot of low-and-slow cooking not to be chewy, we reckoned they would fit nicely into our special stew. Our stew turned out to be excellent, but it requires 8 hours of cooking. And it’s worth it. Make a largest batch you possibly can, because you can freeze it and reheat it and it only gets better! And since only cheap ingredients are used, one serving costs only about 1-2 €, 2-3 USD.
Ingredients for Oxtail Stifado Ragú for 10 Servings
1 whole oxtail – rabo de toro
1 kg (2 lbs.) of pork cheeks or other cheap cuts of pork – carilleras de cerdo
2 big onions – cebolla grande
10 shallots or french onions – chalotas o cebolla francesa
Trim excess fat from the oxtail knobs. Remove the membranes from both sides of the pork cheeks. Splash some olive oil on large cast iron pot and put it on high heat on a stove. Brown the meats from all sides in batches. When done, add some olive oil, if needed, and add diced onions. Lower the heat and let the onion get soft. Add shallots when the onion cubes are about ready.
Preheat the oven to 120 ºC (250 ºF).
Stack the meats on top of the onions and then add beef stock and red wine and raise the heat to high so the stew begins to boil. Remove the skins from the tomatoes. You can do it traditional way of boiling them for a few seconds or, like we like to do, just use a sharp knife, slice the tomatoes into 4 pieces and carefully remove the skin with the knife. Add the tomatoes, sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, a pinch of salt and the peppers and chilies. Don’t over season with salt, because the sauce reduces during cooking. When the stew begins to boil, cover with lid and place in the oven.
Check the level of liquid once an hour and add water, beef stock or red wine, if needed. The meats should be covered with liquid during the whole time. Stir the stew, too. After 8 hours the bones from the oxtail should be clean and the meat fully separated. Check the seasoning and add salt, if needed. Let it cool a bit and serve with pasta, rice or simply with fresh bread.
Traditionally oxtail stew, rabo de toro, is made only of those bulls’ tails that were fighting in arenas. The tradition began from Córdoba in the old days, but now you can find oxtail stew everywhere in Spain.
While this dish is not hard to make, it takes more than 8 hours to cook simmering slowly at low heat. In Spain you can order whole oxtails from local butchers and one tail weights about 1,5 – 2 kg (~4 pounds). We always ask our butcher to cut the tail in pieces, because separating the joints can be somewhat tricky.
Ingredients for Rabo de Toro (4 Servings)
1 oxtail cut in pieces according to the joints – rabo de toro
1 big onion – cebolla grande
3 carrots – zanahornas
1 red paprika – pimiento rojo
2 gloves of garlic – dientes de ajo
1 bottle of red wine – vino tinto
1/2 litre (2 cups) of beef stock – caldo de carne
2 bay leaves – hojas de laurel
salt – sal
ground black pepper – pimienta negra
Start by cutting onion, carrot and paprika into small cubes. Slise the garlic. If there is excess fat on top of the oxtail pieces, remove it before proceeding. The bone marrow provides a lot of fat, so we don’t want more than that.
We recommend preparing this food in a large cast iron pot. Warm it on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. When the oil is hot, brown the oxtail pieces. You have to do it in several batches, because there are quite a lot of pieces.
When the meat is browned, move aside, add little more olive oil, if needed and soften onions, garlic, carrots and paprika. When softened, add beef stock, bottle of red wine and bay leaves. Put the pot on high heat until the liquid begins to boil. Add the oxtail pieces and set on low heat. Cover the pot with lid and after awhile check that it boils slowly. Adjust the heat accordingly. After that, just leave it for 4 hours.
In the midpoint of cooking stir the stew. All pieces of meat should be covered with liquid – and if not, add some wine or stock. Cook for another 4 hours and season with salt and pepper to taste. Do not season the stew until very end because a lot of liquid vaporizes during cooking and you may over season it, if done too early. You can remove the bones from the stew, if you wish, but it’s not necessary. The bones are usually clean of meat at this point.
Serve the stew with oven roasted vegetables or simply just some freshly baked bread. Dip the bread in the stew and have a glass of good Spanish Ribera del Duero wine to go with it.